The Pentagon official tasked with leading efforts to crack down on extremist views among military servicemembers once asserted that backers of former President Donald Trump were also supporters of racism, misogyny and extremism.
The official, Bishop Garrison, is a senior adviser to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and head of the Pentagon’s Countering Extremism Working Group. Garrison expressed his view in a series of tweets on July 27, 2019.
“Silence from our Congressional leaders is complicity,” Garrison tweeted. “He is only going to get worse from here, & his party and its leadership are watching it happen while doing nothing to stop it. Support for him, a racist, is support for ALL his beliefs.”
“He’s dragging a lot of bad actors (misogynist, extremists, other racists) out into the light, normalizing their actions,” he added. “If you support the President, you support that. There is no room for nuance with this. There is no more “but I’m not like that” talk.”
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Pentagon officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Garrison posted his tweets the same day that Trump publicly ripped the late Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who had criticized conditions at migrant facilities at the southern border. In response, Trump referred to Cummings as a “brutal bully” and called his district in Maryland a “disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess.”
Trump’s remarks drew widespread criticism from Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who accused the former president of a “racist attack” against Cummings.
Prior to his role at the Pentagon, Garrison worked as director of national security outreach at Human Rights First. A former Army officer, he also served as an aide to former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign.
The Pentagon established the Countering Extremism Working Group, or CEWG, in April. The group was formed in a bid to crack down on extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. At the time, Pentagon officials noted that some riot participants were either current service members or military veterans.
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Officials said the CEWG would be tasked with updating Department of Defense guidelines to “more specifically define what constitutes extremist behavior,” among other tasks. Garrison will oversee the effort and provide recommendations on potential changes to Pentagon policy.
Earlier this month, The Intercept reported that the Pentagon was prepping a program that would screen social media posts of military members for “concerning behaviors” related to extremism. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby pushed back on the report.
“Mr. Garrison is leading the extremist working group on a number of efforts to try to help us come to grips with learning how, what the scope and scale of the problem of extremist activity in the ranks really is and helping us divine some potential solutions, going forward,” Kirby said.